Mawaru Penguindrum Episodes 6 and 7 – Slow Ride
I like short anime series. If you go back and look, you’ll notice every show I’ve covered in full has only been a season long (except Durarara!!, of which I only covered the second half).
That’s because I like series that come in, say their piece, and finish up. While I enjoy long form storytelling, it’s a rare show that can maintain its quality indefinitely, and even more scarce in the genre of heavily experimental anime that I tend to prefer. If you’re throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, I’d rather only have to sit through 12 episodes of your best ideas, rather than 24+ of whatever garbage you can come up with.
I’ve confirmed that Mawaru Penguindrum is continuing on into next season, as I had imagined it would. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Ikuhara’s previous show, ran for 39 episodes, so I assumed Ikuhara had been given at least two seasons for this.
I blame that largesse for the lackadaisical pace of these initial episodes. I mean, I’ve been watching television (and anime especially) for long enough to know padding when I see it, and it’s pretty clear that Mawaru Penguindrum is just stalling for time.
These two episodes, for example, would unquestionably be combined into one for a 12 episode series. While the added time does allow for some more character development, there’s just not enough development here to warrant spending nearly 10% of your run time.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any development in these episodes, it’s just not coherent or seemingly important beyond Ringo’s arc. We continue to learn more about Ringo’s situation, and get some more clues about how her plans to realize her fate, which she dubs “Project M”, may be connected to the wider mysteries surrounding the series.
We also learn why Ringo is so obsessed with Tabuki, Shouma’s teacher. When Tabuki was in high school, he was in love with Ringo’s sister, who was killed suddenly and tragically.
She made an impression on Tabuki, though, giving him a new perspective, allowing him to see the world through her eyes. While he seems to treasure that memory, and move on with his life, her death rocks Ringo’s family, leading her parents to divorce and driving Ringo in a life of deluded fantasy.
Seeing that her sister’s death was the thing that drove her family apart, she becomes convinced that if she can take her sister’s place, she can reunite her family. Starting a relationship with Tabuki, her sister’s former love, becomes her way to do it. She treats her sister’s diary as gospel, convinced that by acting out her sister’s relationship with Tabuki (and fantasies of the future), then everything will fall into place.
It’s ludicrous, of course, but Ringo convinces herself it can happen, until she is incapable of believing anything else is possible. It’s the reason for her crazed actions in previous episodes, and it only gets worse as things become direr.
She permanently moves into the crawlspace underneath his house, imagining that she is his bride as he goes about the mundane events of his daily life. But while she has been failing utterly to make any progress with Tabuki in the real world, his relationship with Yuri has gotten even more serious. When the happy couple announces their engagement, Ringo becomes even more desperate, and makes the drastic decision to sneak up to his bedroom and sleep with him.
There actually is a lot going on here, but it’s crammed in with a lot that is, frankly, unnecessary. A few scenes are honestly disturbing, and show the bizarre and twisted lengths Ringo is willing to go in pursuit of fate (and the humiliation Shouma is inexplicably willing to endure), but don’t advance the story at all.
When you combine that with a bunch of story fragments that don’t stand up as individual episodes, things start to look flat. There are a few more clues as to the overarching mysteries, but the brothers’ ultimate motivation for their actions, keeping their sister alive, seems to have been put on the back burner, leaving the show without a whole lot of dramatic tension.
I mean, Ringo’s story is the kind of kind of twisted tragedy I can normally get into, but the show’s tendency to stretch plot points over multiple episodes never lets it build the kind of creeping tension that is required for these kinds of stories to work. Hopefully things will pick up as this arc near its inevitable conclusion instead of simply getting more depraved, which I know it does.
Either way, I’m glad I don’t have to write one post for every episode of Penguindrum, like 3HM does with his series. I suspect that’d make me even more frustrated, trying to pull something meaningful together for an episode that doesn’t advance the plot or work well as a stand-alone episode. And, while overall I like the direction the show is going (I haven’t even mentioned the brief hints that Kanba knows more than he is letting on about the penguin-faced conspiracy that seems to be at heart of the show), I wish it wouldn’t take its sweet time getting there.